Chairwoman Maloney Issues Statement on New IG Alert: Rushing Census “Increases the Risks to Obtaining a Complete and Accurate 2020 Census”

Sep 21, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 21, 2020)— Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the following statement after the Department of Commerce Inspector General issued a new Management Alert warning that “the accelerated schedule increases the risks to the accuracy of the 2020 Census.”


“Today’s stark warning from the Inspector General is the latest red flag that keeping the current Census schedule in the middle of the coronavirus crisis will degrade the 2020 Census,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “This should not be a partisan issue.  If the Senate fails to extend the deadline, the 2020 Census will undercount people in red states and blue states—and these communities will lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they are due for healthcare, job training, education, and other programs over the next decade.”


According to the Inspector General’s Management Alert:


  • Trump Administration political officials—not Census Bureau officials—made the decision to accelerate the 2020 Census schedule in late July 2020.


  • It is the “consensus view” of senior Census Bureau officials that the accelerated schedule “increases the risks to the accuracy of the 2020 Census” in both the data collection and data processing phases.


  • The “streamlined” data processing operation—cutting two months out of the originally planned five-month process— “poses a myriad of risks to accuracy and completeness.”


  • One official told the Inspector General’s office that it is “the consensus view of the Bureau’s career staff that the accelerated processing schedule will negatively impact the accuracy of the 2020 Census.”


On September 10, 2020, the Committee released staff reports that estimate the amount of federal funding that the following states would lose in select healthcare, job training, and education programs—each and every year—with just a 1% undercount:


Alabama:                    $39.7 million per year

Arizona:                      $60.7 million per year

Florida:                       $188.8 million per year

Georgia:                      $74.8 million per year

Kentucky:                   $44.6 million per year

Maine:                         $22.2 million per year

Montana:                     $9.7 million per year

North Carolina:           $99 million per year

South Carolina:           $40.3 million per year

Texas:                         $304 million per year

Utah:                           $16.4 million per year


In April, the Trump Administration asked Congress to pass urgent legislation to extend several key Census deadlines as a result of the coronavirus crisis.  The House passed extensions on May 15 as part of the Heroes Act.  Chairwoman Maloney introduced stand-alone legislation on May 27, the Fair and Accurate Census Act, and a Senate companion was introduced on June 23. 


In late July, the Trump Administration suddenly reversed its position, forcing the Census Bureau to drastically curtail operations, including field operations by one month and data processing by three months.


On August 27, the Committee also received a new report, by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office warning about risks with the compressed timing of the Census, including serious concerns regarding the “accuracy of data collected,” the “completeness of data collected,” and “data quality.”


On September 2, 2020, the Oversight Committee released an internal Census Bureau document presented to Secretary Ross on August 3, the same day the Administration announced a new truncated schedule to deliver apportionment data to the President by the end of the year. The document warns that this drastically reduced timeline will force the Census Bureau to curtail or entirely remove key steps developed over the past decade to ensure the completeness and accuracy of the Census. 


At a September 10 hearing to analyze the risks of rushing the Census under the new schedule, former Census Bureau Director John Thompson testified, “If the actions described in the document that the Committee recently released are actually what is being implemented by the Census Bureau, it is clear that quality is being sacrificed in order to meet the September 30, 2020 deadline”.


At the same hearing, J. Christopher Mihm, Managing Director of the Strategic Issues Team at the Government Accountability Office, testified, “We are concerned both from the pressure that’s put to get out of the field—the reduction by one month from the end of October to the end of September—and the reduction of about from 150 days to about 90 days in order to do the processing.   Both of those, either one of them would be a very difficult lift, the two together could be an extraordinary one for the Census Bureau.”



116th Congress